Answering 12 great questions about propane bed bug heaters.

In this article we will answer 12 questions about propane bed bug heaters.

As a successful pest control business owner or a professional technician, you understand that selecting the correct tool to do the job is of utmost importance. Selecting the best tool for the job at hand can determine how efficiently, cost-effectively, and safely the job gets done. There are many ways to kill a bed bug – including squishing it with a shoe. So, technically, a shoe in the closet could be a tool used to kill bed bugs. Although the shoe will work, there are far more efficient and better tools to use. One of those tools is heat. For the past several years heat has become one of professional technician’s tools of choice.

Let’s examine this bed bug killing tool a little more closely to determine if this may be something you want to consider.    

There are many benefits of using a bed bug heater to kill bed bugs:

  1. Heat treatment is a highly effective method for eliminating bed bugs. The high temperatures required to kill bed bugs cannot be achieved with other methods such as pesticides.
  2. Using a propane heater allows for targeted treatment of specific areas or items, rather than treating an entire room or building with pesticides.
  3. Heat treatment does not leave behind any harmful chemicals or residue that could irritate humans, pets, or plants.
  4. Heat treatment can be used to treat items that cannot be treated with pesticides such as electronics, books, or documents.
  5. It is a fast treatment that can be done in one day. Spaces can be occupied normally after cool down and cleanup.
  6. It can also be used to kill other pests such as moths, ticks, fleas, ants, roaches, and more.
  7. A bed bug heater can be used to treat items that are difficult to move or disassemble such as furniture or appliances.

Which is better, a propane bed bug heater or an electric bed bug heater?

Propane Bed Bug heaters

Is one better than the other? The answer is that both are good. One may be more efficient or more convenient than the other depending on the situation. For example: which is better, a tack or a spike? They are both fasteners. However, you would not want to hang a calendar on your wall with a spike. Likewise, you would never use a thumb tack to repair a broken bench in the hallway. Electric heaters are ideal for single room treatments like a hotel room and small areas like a single living space. Propane heaters are great for whole house infestations, warehouses, high-rise condos, camps, apartments, food processing plants, and areas that lack enough power to run an electric bed bug heater. 

What kind of electrical power source do I need to run a propane heater? 

The heat produced from a propane heater is generated solely by burning the propane. The basic reason electricity is needed for a propane heater is for the ignitor and to power the fan. With this being the case, there is no need for large voltage from a 240 outlet or from multiple 110 outlets. A single 110-volt receptacle is all that is needed to power the heater.

How does a propane heater kill bed bugs?

Most all living organisms have a thermal death point or a temperature at which they can no longer survive. The thermal death point for a bed bug is 111°-114°F. The larva and eggs die at 117°F. A propane heater can be used to easily heat an area to a temperature that is lethal to a bed bug.  

How hot should the room be while using a propane heater?

Propane bed bug heaters

Ideally, the room temperature will need to be increased to 140°F by the propane bed bug heater. This temperature will not harm electronics, some pictures, furniture, or most things that are in the room. You will need to remove things like cosmetics, candles, food, medication, explosives, and other things of that nature. Your initial thought may be that 140°F is too hot for an indoor temperature. However, you can put this in perspective by measuring the temperature inside your car on a sunny day in the summertime. Those temperatures can be as high as 200°F on the dash.

The propane heater only needs to bring the temperature of the cracks and crevices to 121°F. A temperature sensor, monitoring system, or infrared temperature gun can be used to check and monitor the temperatures. The time it will take to get to the needed temperature depends on the size of the area and the building & wall construction.  

How to prepare the area for a propane heat treatment?

To prepare an area for propane heat treatment to eliminate bed bugs, you should follow these steps:

  1. Identify the infested areas. Inspect the entire room or building and identify all areas where bed bugs have been found. This will help you determine the scope of the infestation and the areas that need to be treated.
  2. Remove clutter. Clear the area of any clutter such as clothing, bedding, and furniture. This will make it easier to treat the area and will also reduce the risk of fire.
  3. Seal all infested items such as clothing, bedding, and furniture in plastic bags to trap the heat. This will help to ensure that the heat treatment is effective and that all bed bugs and eggs are killed.
  4. Disconnect all electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, and radios so they don’t pull power needed to run equipment.
  5. Turn off all air conditioners and fans as they will interfere with the heat treatment.
  6. Eliminate cold spots by placing the mattress and box springs in an “A” shape, emptying any cardboard boxes, emptying drawers, and spreading piles of clothes and fabric. 
  7. Make sure the area is well-ventilated. Open windows and doors of the area to ensure adequate ventilation. This is important to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and back pressure. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Remove items that can be ruined by high concentrated heat levels.  

What to do after a propane heat treatment?

Once the heat treatment has been successfully completed, turn off the fuel source, allowing the fuel to burn out. Switch the heater to fan mode only. This will allow the area to cool down more quickly. It is a good idea to wear a pair of gloves prior to moving anything in the room. After the treatment is complete, all the bed bugs will be dead. There is no retreatment needed; there is no chemical resistance. Bed bugs are unable to survive at the temperature that was reached. Once the area has cooled, the dead bed bugs will need to be vacuumed and discarded.  

What safety options should I consider for when selecting a propane bed bug heater? 

When using a propane heater to kill bed bugs, it is important to take the following safety precautions:

  1. Be sure the unit you are considering is made with quality parts and always look for a manufacturer who takes pride in quality construction.
  2. Ensure that the area is well-ventilated. Propane heaters produce carbon monoxide, which is a toxic gas that can be dangerous if inhaled in large amounts.
  3. Keep flammable materials away from the heater including curtains, bedding, furniture, and other items that could catch fire if they come into contact with the heater.
  4. Do not leave the heater unattended. It should be monitored at all times to ensure that it is functioning properly and that there are no leaks.
  5. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature in the room. The temperature should be kept at 135-140°F or higher for several hours in order to effectively kill the bed bugs.
  6. Wear protective gear such as gloves, long sleeves, and a mask to protect yourself from heat and carbon monoxide.
  7. Verify that the heating unit has a shut off valve on the heater itself. Another safety feature to look for is if the construction includes a second stage regulator. A second stage regulator will provide additional safety in the unlikely event of a failure with the first stage regulator at the propane tank.

It is important to follow these safety precautions to avoid the risk of fire and carbon monoxide.

Also, check for safety solenoids which will shut off the flow of propane in the event of any electrical component malfunctions. A good example of these safety features can be found in the construction of the Pest Heat TPE 500 or Sleeptight 800. If your heater needs to be vented, make sure to always have good airflow throughout your treatment space. Remember, propane is flammable, so you need to exercise caution when choosing and using your preferred propane heater.

What is the difference between a direct-fired propane heater versus an indirect-fired propane heater?

Direct-fired propane heaters have an open flame. Most direct-fired heaters are required to be operated from the outside and will use mylar ducting to transport the hot air to the indoors. Other heaters, like the Sleeptight 800  from within the area being treated and use a fresh air system to inject air from the outdoors. 

With an indirect-fired propane heater, the burner is fired into a heat exchanger. Air is heated by passing over the heat exchanger, allowing the combustion by-products to remain within the heat exchanger which is then exhausted through a flue.

Are there any EPA standards with a propane heater?

There are no EPA standards involved when using a propane heater. However, the EPA has numerous standards and increased restrictions on pest control chemicals. It has been noted that some pesticides may be becoming less effective due to their restricted dosage. 

Is there any resistance with a propane bed bug heater?

There is no resistance when using a propane heater. Any bed bug within the treatment area will die regardless of immunity or resistance they may have acquired from prior chemical exposures. Research has proven that some bed bugs have been found to be resistant to insecticides. Some bed bugs simply have the ability to survive insecticide exposure. 

How do some bed bugs become resistant to certain chemical while the same chemical is lethal to other bed bugs? Chemical does kill bed bugs; however, in the chance that not all the bed bugs die during the treatment – those that survive will go on to produce a resistant offspring. 

Are there any allergies and exposure risks with a propane heater?

When using insecticides, there is always the possibility of allergies to the chemical that is used in bed bug eradication. It’s difficult to determine or know exactly what the exposure risk might be when these products are used indoors. The use of heat to kill bed bugs will eliminate that risk. A propane heater will not adversely affect human allergies.  

Is there any need to determine which chemical to use if a competitor has previously treated the area?

A common struggle that many technicians encounter is which chemical to use. Many times, there may not be a single insecticide that is capable of eliminating a bed bug infestation if used alone. There are occasions that a technician will need to use a variety of products to tackle an infestation from several different angles. 

Here’s a good example – you arrive on site and learn that the customer has ordered chemical online and that did not work out. Or, a competitor company has treated before you were hired and now there is a good possibility the bed bugs have become resistant. If you are left trying to figure which angle you are going to tackle this infestation, consider a propane heater. 

What about the technicians on the internet who claim that heat is not a good option for killing bed bugs? 

Opponents of killing bed bugs with heat have a two-fold argument. 

First, there is no residual. Residual insecticides kill insects that land on or crawl over a treated surface. If the bed bugs are all killed by using heat, there is no need for a residual component unless they are reintroduced into the area. Since bed bugs cannot survive a thermal exposure, all of the bed bugs will be killed, creating no need for a residual. 

Second, they say that there will be cold spots where the bed bugs can hide. Are there such things as a cold spot? Absolutely. Piles of clothes, thick mattresses, stuff in cardboard boxes – these are all prime examples of places that bed bugs could easily hide away and escape the fatal heat. So, it is important for the technician to look for these potential cold spots and move or distribute the items as necessary.

As you can see, these are easy theories to debunk. There is plenty of research that has been done on this topic. If you are concerned, we challenge you to check it out for yourself.

If your most recent bed bug treatment required a retreatment, the area was infested to the point you did not even know where to begin to spray, or it felt like you were chasing the bed bugs around with an old shoe – we recommend that you consider looking into a propane heater. Using propane heaters to kill bed bugs is efficient, effective, and safe. Please contact us today for more information on both electric heaters and propane heaters.